After two years of social distancing, gifting has taken on more meaning than ever. Beyond being a token of appreciation or a perfunctory birthday/anniversary/Christmas present, gift-giving has become a conduit for evoking or satisfying nostalgia, a sorely unfulfilled emotion (even in the cold-hearted) that rears its head especially during restrictive times.
In the same vein, gift-giving presents a perfect chance for givers to make a statement, whether it’s expressing love and adoration or inexplicitly saying “I treasure you and the moments we’ve shared.” The more personal and heartfelt the choice of gift, the more relationship deposits scored.
Ellie Lim, 25, a design communication student in Lasalle, understands the art of gifting and nostalgia-gratifying all too well. In May 2020, she launched Sarangly, selling customised photo frames that allow customers to choose from curated templates and bouquet colours, with the option of adding personalised messages. It was a hit among young couples.
Soon after, she introduced personalised musical boxes powered by augmented reality (AR). Choose your music, upload a photo and video (optional) and indicate a name to be printed on the box. You can even add preserved flowers to the box.
Sounds magically sentimental? Ellie’s business ideas have won her more than 1,000 purchases to date, with the AR musical boxes and customised frames being the best-sellers.
We find out about her strategies in running Sarangly, marketing tips and business lessons she has learnt along the way.
I started Sarangly hoping to earn enough money to fund myself for my university fees. My parents wanted me to find a stable job, but it has always been my dream as a designer to have my own brand and become an entrepreneur. As such, I decided to take a leap of faith to launch Sarangly.
“Sarang” means love in Korean. To me, gift-giving is a heartfelt way for people to spread love to each other. I’d like to make every meaningful moment last with beautiful customised crafts that speak to the heart.
Sarangly offers personalised gifts with a touch of technology to show your love and appreciation to your loved ones. Since 2020, we have put a smile on over 1,000 customers’ and their giftees’ faces through our products. Find the perfect gift at www.sarangly.com today.
Our two best-selling products are the AR Musical Box and Customised Frame, primarily due to their ability to give our customers and their giftees an unique and interactive gifting experience.
For the AR Musical Box, giftees can use their mobile phones scan the photo in the musical box to reveal a hidden video specially created for them, through the use of AR technology.
For the Customised Frame, customers can design their very own frames on our website, by customising the text, photos and frame colour. They will also be able to preview the frame before placing the order.
The majority of Sarangly’s customers are young adults looking to purchase gifts to show love and appreciation for their partners, for occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays and more.
I had a customer who messaged me to ask me if I could rush out an AR musical box for her friend, because her friend was unfortunately in a critical condition. She sent me videos and photos of them together for me to include in the AR musical box, to show her friend one last time how much she loved her.
A few days later, the customer messaged me to thank me for rushing the order so her friend could see it in time. It was very heartening that I got a chance to be part of that moment – it’s one of my most unforgettable experiences.
Having dealt with financial issues in my family since young, my parents wanted me to get a stable job after graduating from polytechnic rather than becoming an entrepreneur or further pursuing my studies. However, I’ve always wanted to start a business on my own and pursue a university degree. Not going through with my parents’ advice made it difficult to garner support from them, especially since I was planning to start a business in the midst of the pandemic.
When I first started Sarangly, I faced challenges such as logistical issues which resulted in delayed launches and getting support from those around me. While these issues gradually got better when Sarangly grew and sales started to pick up, it was difficult to juggle my full-time studies and Sarangly, and I found myself often feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
However, seeing how my products put a smile on my customers and their giftees’ faces, it reminded me of why I started this business – to spread love and appreciation through gifting. This gave me the strength to persevere and try my best to overcome the challenges faced.
It took me three months to source and procure all the necessary items needed to start my business, such as getting a printer, die-cut machine and materials for my frame. I spent about $3k to kick-start my online business. I wanted to keep the startup capital low, hence I started the business with only one product. I have increased the offerings to six products today.
It took me roughly half a year to start making profits.
I mainly market Sarangly through social media channels such as Instagram and TikTok, as well as influencer marketing. Key lessons I have learnt include reaching out to our target audience effectively through selecting influencers with good reach, engagement rate and similar target audience as Sarangly, as well as audience definition for Instagram and Facebook paid ads.
I have also learnt to create engaging content on Sarangly’s social media channels through having a variety of content pillars such as brand story, product features, reviews and seasonal promotions, as well as posting regularly – at least two times a week.
Another lesson would be to utilise different social media formats for different goals. I have learnt that TikTok and Instagram Stories are effective in raising awareness of our brand, while Instagram posts work well for driving conversion to sales.
I would be more cautious when selecting suitable business vendors. For instance, I would find suppliers who are more transparent with the pricing and shipping duration, as well as product photographers with more competitive pricing. Selecting better suppliers and photographers would have helped me reduce my startup and material costs.
Many people feel that we need to have lots of knowledge or resources to start something on our own. This often ends up with them giving up their dreams, opting for a safer and more stable option because they are scared of failure.
However, I am a firm believer that anyone can pursue their dreams, as long as they put in the hard work and persevere.
After I graduate from Lasalle in 2023, I intend to work on Sarangly full time, and continue expanding my team and coming up with innovative and thoughtful gifts. In the next one or two years, we will continue to focus on coming up with new products based on our unique selling proposition of blending gifts and technology, as well as creating workshops to provide our customers an interactive and memorable experience with their loved ones.
I also hope to reach out to customers beyond Singapore.
Find out more about Sarangly and its range of products at sarangly.com.